Marvel Studios may be taking their biggest risk yet in 2014 with the August release of their ambitious new property Guardians of the Galaxy, but it's April's Captain America: The Winter Soldier that has the most crucial role to play in Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only is the film finally giving fans a chance to see Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) try to acclimatize to the modern world after being frozen in ice since WWII and not only is S.H.I.E.L.D. finally getting some much-needed screen time again, but Captain America 2 is serving as the bridge between the stories and events of The Avengers and its 2015 sequel, Age of Ultron.
To do all of these things and still manage to craft a story and experience that's different than any other Marvel movie before it, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige, along with the writers and directors, are looking back to '70s thrillers to find a tone and story concept that meshes important characters and events in the comics to the modern cinematic world moviegoers are delving into.
In the Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer and Comic-Con footage before it, there were hints of the political nature of the film, espionage and corruption, as well as an example of Rogers not knowing who to trust or who/what he's fighting for. In fact, that scene in the footage where Rogers (Evans) debates the ethics of what S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing with Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) - from what we gather - is over the use of S.H.I.E.L.D. drones to spy - a very relevant issue in modern society.
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Captain America 2 co-writer Stephen McFeely talks to Empire about the modern take on the character:
"How do we make sense of him in the modern world? I mean, he's really Gary Cooper. The solution is kind of that the world changes in response to him. He is usually correct. In this one, we’re dealing with the Cap after Marvel thawed him out in the '60s, the one whose values don’t necessarily match ours. We went down a bunch of roads and kept coming back to this idea of a conspiracy movie. It’s what’s going to get the most out of the moral dilemma for the character. How does he fit in? How does he see where we've ended up? He hasn't experienced everything we've gone through to get to this point, where agendas are now really murky."
Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige continues:
"In our attempt to make all of our films feel unique and feel different we found ourselves going back to things like [Three Days of the Condor]. Also the other political thrillers of the '70s: The Parallax View, All The President’s Men. This was a time that Cap existed in in the comics. He found himself in the swinging ’60s followed by the Watergate era followed by the Reagan era followed by where we are today. In the comics it was a hell of a journey for Steve, And we couldn't take him through those years because in our cinematic universe he was asleep. But we wanted to force him to confront that kind of moral conundrum, something with that '70s flavor. And in our film that takes the form of S.H.I.E.L.D.."
Co-director Joe Russo adds:
"We knew that they wanted a thriller, which was an idea we loved, but they have been incredibly supportive of how different in tone we've made this compared to the first film. I don’t know that we’ll ever work again with a company like this. Kevin is a uniquely creative executive producer. We've had the least amount of interference and the most amount of support that we've ever had on a movie. There are layers to this film. It makes the characters more interesting. I think when people see this film they’ll realize how unique this Captain America franchise is. This is a radically different movie than the first.”
"We've been studying it over and over in slow motion. Why is that car chase so effective? Because you care about who’s in the car. The Conversation, Blow Out for a kind of tone; how sound design helps to build the paranoia. So we’re building things into the back speakers that you kind of don’t hear. We’re both real fans of [Michael Mann’s] Heat and the heist sequence in that, the vérité style."
Co-director Anthony Russo, brother of Joe:
"What made '70s thrillers interesting is that it was a very complicated time.We were peeling back the curtain with Watergate and realizing how corrupt the system was. Now, again with the proliferation of social media, you can blow the whistle on the NSA and it can be round the world in 30 seconds. And we have the morality of drones. It is right to preemptively use them to kill suspected terrorists prior to any sort of trial? So the times we're living in are even more complex."
And finally, star Chris Evans talks about getting time to see Steve Rogers try to find his place in the world after the Battle of New York.
"We really haven’t explored his adjustment period. In The Avengers we had so many characters you have to address, you don’t really have time to sit with any single one. In this movie there’s a lot going on for Steve. He’s trying to acclimatize to the modern world. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s about trying to find how he fits. He’s a man from the 1940s. He’s just woken up. For everybody else, it’s been a slow burn to get to where we are in 2014. But for him, suddenly there’s the internet, cellphones and The Patriot Act. The technology’s new to him and so is the access the government has to that technology."
There's quite a bit of interesting additional info in the latest issue of Empire on the next Marvel Studios theatrical release, including bits on Steve Rogers' outlook on life and lack of interest in just being a soldier. He wants to be himself and in WWII he felt a responsibility to sign up and joined the armed forces to help. That's not the case in 2014 and his own views obviously clash with Black Widow's (Scarlelt Johansson) who shares a very different history that will also be fleshed out in the sequel.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, with unannounced films coming May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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